Inspiring a love of reading begins at birth. Reading together and enjoying storytime at the library are great ways to start children on their reading journey. Some books work better for one-on-one sharing and others work well to read aloud to a group (and a lot of books work well for both!). As always, choose a variety of books based on the child’s interests and developmental stage and be intentional in your choice to support Equity, Diversity, Inclusion (EDI) and Social Justice.

Selecting Books to Support Development

When selecting books to read at storytime, consider the age group you are reading to. As children grow and develop their needs and interests change.


  •  Large, bright images and pictures or high contrast images
  • Books you can sing
  • Rhyming books
  • First word books
  • Books with animal noises
  • Books with real photos of babies and faces
  • Concept books: shapes, colors, counting


  • Clear, bold illustrations
  • Simple stories with one to two sentences per page
  • Interactive stories with movement, animal noises, etc.
  • Books with repeated phrases
  • Books that introduce feelings and emotions
  • Books about routines and daily life
  • Non-fiction books with engaging photos and limited text
  • Concept Books: ABC’s, 1,2,3’s, shapes, colors


  • Detailed illustrations
  • Books with simple or predictive plots
  • Humorous books
  • Wordless picture books
  • Non-fiction books about animals and science
  • Books about fairness, feelings, and friendship
  • Books that feature diversity
  • Concept books: Opposites, size, time

Selecting Books to Support Early Literacy

Every picture book you share with a child will help that child develop every early literacy skill and practice. Some books, however, are especially supportive of the Every Child Ready to Read skills and practices. For title recommendations and activity sheets, check out the CLEL Bell Book Awards.

ECRR Practices

Read: Books with fun, colorful illustrations; Non-fiction books; Books featuring popular characters or topics; Lift-the-flap and pop-up books; Books about reading, libraries, and books

Write: Books that model writing; Books with “handwritten” lettering; Alphabet books; Books that encourage tracing; Touch-and-feel books

Talk: Wordless picture books;  Books that encourage questions; Books with repeated phrases; Books that model conversations; Books with animal sounds

Sing: Rhyming books; Poetry books; Nursery rhymes; Books that can be sung

Play: Interactive books; Movement books; Books that model imaginative play; Books about friendship

ECRR Skills

Vocabulary: Alphabet books; Books with rich language; Non-fiction books; Books with words in different languages

Print Motivation: Interactive books; Non-fiction books with engaging photos or illustrations; Diverse books so all children can see themselves in books

Print Awareness: Books about books and reading; Books with repeated phrases; Books with word bubbles; Books with large print; Books with print as part of the illustrations

Narrative Skills: Repetitive and predictable books; Cumulative stories; Wordless books; Sequential plots; Familiar folk & nursery tales

Phonological Awareness: Rhyming books; Books with animal sounds (or adding sounds to books with animals); Mother Goose rhymes; Poetry books; Books with onomatopoeia

Letter Knowledge: ABC books; Concept books (shape, color, opposites, etc.); Books with strong alliteration

Books that Support Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Children need books that offer them windows into different lives and books that act as mirrors, where they can see themselves and their life reflected in a positive light.When children read stories about people who look like them and share cultural similarities, they are able to build a positive identity and sense of belonging. Likewise, reading about people from different cultures and who look different builds a child’s empathy and compassion. All children need diverse books and libraries are responsible for purchasing and featuring these books in our storytimes and through displays and readers advisory. 

1 Rudine Sims Bishop, The Ohio State University. “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors” originally appeared in Perspectives: Choosing and Using Books for the Classroom, v.6, n. 3, Summer, 1990

Reflection Questions: Use these questions to reflect on the representation of the books you choose for storytime, or to guide discussions with children.

  • Whose story is this?
  • Who is the reader?
  • When and where was the book written? By whom?
  • Who is named? Who isn’t?
  • Who gets punished? Praised?
  • Who speaks? Who is silenced?
  • Who acts? Who is acted upon?
  • Who looks? Who is observed?

These questions were adapted from Lissa Paul’s Reading Other Ways by Megan Dowd Lambert for “10 tips for Reading Picture Books with Children through a Race-Conscious Lens”

When selecting diverse picture books it is important to think critically about our choices. Too often we only feature diverse characters during a certain time of year (Hispanic Heritage Month, Lunar New Year) or focus solely on historic representations or cultural differences (foods, festivals, and folk tales). There is a place for these books, but it is a problem when it is the only story we share. It is important to include children of color engaging in everyday activities and expressing pride in their culture and appearance. We also need to examine all picture books to avoid stereotypes, bias, tokenism, or other negative portrayals. 

Below you will find resources to help you discover more high quality picture books featuring diverse characters, positive anti-bias messages, and written and/or illustrated by people of color. Diverse and anti-bias books can fit easily into any storytime theme and can be shared at every storytime to reflect the daily lives of children of color in the stories we tell. 

Diverse Book Finder:  a comprehensive, searchable catalog of children’s picture books featuring Black and Indigenous people and People of Color (BIPOC)

Embrace Race: Resources for parents and educators of young children to guide the development of healthy racial identities. A few of our favorite resources from this site include:

Social Justice Books: A “Teaching for Change” project that offers booklists, reviews, and a Guide for Selecting Anti-Bias Children’s Books

We Are Kid Lit Collective: Publish annual Summer Reading Lists to promote books written by and about Indiginous and People of Color.

We Need Diverse Books: WNDB advocates for changes in publishing so that all children can see themselves in the pages of a book. In addition to programs and resources, WNDB has compiled a list of recommended sites and blogs to help find diverse books.

Tips for Parents and Caregivers

Use these tips when helping caregivers select books for one-on-one sharing or print the handout to use in your library.


  • Sturdy books that babies can chew on
  • Books with photos and real faces
  • Books with tactile elements, like textures or flaps
  • First word books
  • Books based on nursery rhymes or songs
  • Concept books (colors, shapes, counting)


  • Books about your child’s favorite characters or interests
  • Books with large fun pictures, including non-fictions
  • Interactive books like Press Here or with moveable parts
  • Concept books (ABC’s 1,2,3’s, colors, shapes)
  • Books about feelings, families, or daily life
  • Books you and your child love enough to read repeatedly


  • Books that relate to your child’s life (friends, school, pets)
  • Books about your child’s favorite characters or interests
  • Longer books with more in depth stories
  • Books about people similar to you and your child
  • Books about people different from you and your child
  • Books you loved as a child
  • Humorous books
  • Wordless books
  • Search and Find books
  • Non-Fiction